Pitch-perfect start to Ryder Cup extravaganza

The European team pose with wives and partners ahead of a Ryder Cup gala dinner last night. Picture: Getty

The European team pose with wives and partners ahead of a Ryder Cup gala dinner last night. Picture: Getty

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IT was billed as one of the most spectacular shows ever staged in Scotland and a fitting curtain-raiser for one of the world’s biggest sports events.

Last night, a host of the nation’s leading performers joined forces to herald the return of the biggest tournament in golf to the home of the sport.

The four-hour event at the 12,000-capacity Hydro arena in Glasgow was held less than 36 hours before the Ryder Cup action begins at Gleneagles.

And the players due to do battle in Perthshire took time out from their preparations for an event featuring everything from indie rock, musical theatre, opera and dance, to classical music and folk songs.

The event, masterminded by T in the Park’s organisers and Kim Gavin, the creative guru behind the closing ceremony of the London Olympics, was headlined by American disco icon Nile Rodgers, who performed hits like Le Freak, Get Lucky and Good Times with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

The classical ensemble also staged one-off collaborations with pop-rock band Texas, singer-songwriter Amy Macdonald, who performed Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark in tribute to the US team, and former Ultravox frontman Midge Ure.

He performed the band’s classic 1980s chart-topper Vienna towards the end of show before the orchestra was joined by former Runrig singer Donnie Munro for a rendition of rousing traditional anthem Loch Lomond.

The crowd, who were shown highlights of previous Ryder Cup encounters, gave both captains – American Tom Watson and his counterpart, Irishman Paul McGinley – a rousing standing ovation, before the appearance of the full teams had the audience on their feet.

McGinley told the crowd: “It’s a great honour to be here. It’s a big challenge but we’re ready.”

Asked for a message for Europe’s fans heading to Gleneagles, he added: “Be as loud as you can.” Watson, who sparked some good-natured jeering when he said his team were looking forward to taking the trophy back to the US, said: “We’re looking forward to a great event.”

Highlights from the £1 million show will be shown on both Sky and BBC1 later this week. It also featured singers Jake Bugg, Nina Nesbitt and Eddi Reader, and a rare live appearance from cult Dundee pop band Danny Wilson, who reformed specially for the occasion to perform their biggest hit, Mary’s Prayer.

Among the highlights were an excerpt from the National Theatre of Scotland’s hit musical Glasgow Girls, which was inspired by the schoolgirl campaign over the treatment of asylum seekers in the city, and a “Celtic Bolero” sequence performed by the bagpipe band Red Hot Chilli Pipers, which heralded the arrival of the players, who had earlier attended a gala dinner at Kelvingrove art gallery with their wives and girlfriends.

Geoff Ellis, chief executive of DF Concerts, the company behind T in the Park for the last 20 years, said: “People have obviously played live with orchestras before, but there has never really been anything staged on this scale in Scotland.

“The Ryder Cup has had opening concerts in the past, but there’s been nothing like this terms of the size or complexity or production values.

“We were trying to get Nile Rodgers to do the show for a while, but it was really the chance to play live with an orchestra that swung it in the end.”

PAUL WHITELAW’S LIVE REVIEW

Ryder Cup Gala Concert: SSE Hydro, Glasgow

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AS FAR as slick, corporate events held in enormo-domes go, this gala launch for the Ryder Cup was a champ among caddies. The all-star bill were presumably united through their shared passion for golf, generously performing short sets to allow the next act swift passage to the stage.

Fittingly in this huge year for Scotland, the first half of this show was dominated by homegrown acts. Despite getting off to a muted start with the pedestrian Twin Atlantic and the winsome Nina Nesbitt, the pace picked up – or at least took a turn for the curious – when Danny Wilson reformed for the first time in 25 years to perform their greatest hit, Mary’s Prayer. Then off they went.

Scots stalwarts Eddi Reader and Midge Ure did what was required of them, before giving way to a more enthusiastically received second half in which hosts James Nesbitt, Edith Bowman and Fred MacAulay welcomed the US and European teams (plus their wives/partners) to the stage.

Greeted by a standing ovation, it was as if large portions of the audience were more excited by their presence than that of Texas and the incongruous yet welcome disco legend, Nile Rodgers.

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